My youngest sister recently acquired a slide scanner. During a visit to my parents she scanned all the old slides they took back in the early years of their marriage, when getting colour photographs printed was far too expensive. I have gained a huge amount of pleasure looking through these old photographs and reminiscing about the good old days when I was growing up. Dating the photographs and working out where they were taken is a bit of a challenge, but there are clues in all of them. There are things I recognise such as houses and landmarks. My father’s cars provide other indications of dates, because I know when each vehicle was purchased. As I looked through them I realised that these old photographs are much more than a collection of snapshots, they are a precious insight into my family.
Actually I have two families. I have a biological mother and father, three sisters, my wonderful wife, four sons, a daughter, three daughters-in-law and two grandsons. Then there is my spiritual family, headed by my Father in Heaven. In a month and a bit we will remember the birth of His Son, Jesus. Sadly, many people will celebrate Christmas without really knowing Jesus, who He is, or why He came to Earth.
We have no photographs of Jesus surrounded by animals in a Bethlehem stable, although many artistic interpretations of the stable scene exist. The stable scene is quite meaningless if we focus only on the baby Jesus and ignore the rest of His life. I am becoming increasingly aware of how little I know about Jesus. I know about Him, I believe in Him with all my being, but recently I have become overwhelmed by the need to really know Him. That is where the Bible comes in. Using a Chronological Bible I am working my way through the Gospels and getting to know Jesus better. I have also started to read a book by John Eldredge called Beautiful Outlaw. The back cover of the book states:
“Somewhere along the line we’ve lost sight of who Jesus really is. We’ve reduced the vivid reality of Jesus’ life here on earth to an image that is so ethereal that we find it hard to get to know Him – let alone like Him. Is it possible to get back to the man Jesus was, to know Him and trust Him? Can we know what He is really like? Beautiful Outlaw offers a dynamic portrait of Jesus in all His humanity, dismantling the religious nonsense and helping us understand the living breathing man behind the stained glass.”
This Christmas we need to discover and understand ‘the living breathing man behind the stained glass.’ The Jesus who barbequed fish for breakfast on a beach for His friends. The Jesus who provoked confrontation after confrontation with those who had reduced a relationship with God to a set of rules. A Beautiful Outlaw.